A Matou Mahi

Mercy in Action

Cobden Mercy Outreach

Based near Greymouth, this organisation offers a wide range of support for women and their families, helping them to make changes and to build a positive future.

Cobden Mercy Outreach is run by two Sisters of Mercy from their homes in this small West Coast town.

It provides temporary accommodation, ranging from one night to several months, for people in different circumstances. This includes emergency accommodation, respite care for people with mental health issues, and room for those waiting for a Housing New Zealand house.

After 15 years of grass-roots ministry in Cobden, Anne McLaughlin and Theresa Scott say that it’s the accommodation they offer which is their way of keeping hope alive in the windswept suburb where they live.

Both sisters have space in their homes where women can stay, often with their children. “There are lots of organizations working in the community here, but accommodation is still the gap that nobody else provides,” says Theresa.

There is no fixed length of stay. Some will come for a couple of nights; one with addiction issues stayed for 10 months. “We try to encourage them to take the steps – then suddenly they will; they’re ready to fly again.”

Their ministry is officially listed as Cobden Mercy Outreach, but they have no name on the door, no brochures left in doctors’ surgeries. “It’s by word of mouth,” says Anne. “People know who we are and where to find us. We’ve brought Mercy as we know it. There’s nobody else doing it in quite the same way.”

Affordable housing is a problem for many who seek assistance. People often face a long waiting period to access a home from Housing New Zealand. Possessions are often lost or stolen as they move in and out of temporary accommodation.

Hospitality is important as many drop in for a cuppa and a chat. Often they need to share a problem with someone they can trust. Many have no family support, and this friendship is important to them.